By Chris Stollings / October 2nd, 2012
Recently Sega issued a trademark listed as “Shining Ark” – which could either mean an HD remake of the Saturn title Shining the Holy Ark, or possibly a sequel. As a long term fan of Sega and its Shining series my first reaction is to squeal with glee… until reality sets in and I remember Sega’s history with this franchise.
The Shining series was Sega’s response to the slew of AAA RPG’s that Nintendo was releasing for their various consoles, spanning 14 games across the Genesis (Mega drive outside of the U.S.), SegaCD, Game Gear, and Saturn – and those are only the U.S. releases. Many more games did not make it out of Japan due to the split of Sega and Camelot, as well as poor sales of the series compared to those during the partnership. Originally Camelot started out as an in house development team as Sega CD4 (Consumer Development Studio #4) but changed their name to Sonic! Software planning when they started work on the first title in the Shining series, Shining in the Darkness.
My first experience with the series was Shining Force 2, one of the more famous entries in the series, as it rates on dozens of Top RPG and Sega game lists. It is a top-down strategy RPG that Sega used to combat the likes of the Fire Emblem series, and it did a great job on the battle front as it made its U.S. Debut long before Fire Emblem. Shining Force 2 drew me in with a fantastic story, cinematic attacks, and a soundtrack that just seemed to worm its way into your brain. After that, I was hooked. I bought every Shining title I could on the Saturn, spending an entire summer playing Shining the Holy Ark and crawling through dungeons defeating epic bosses and trying to find every hidden treasure and fairy. While it was not a strategy RPG, it had the same unique feeling I felt when I first picked up Shining Force 2.
The last game that Sega and Camelot paired together on was Shining Force 3. It followed the “force” series tradition of being a Strategy RPG, but was a huge undertaking as the story spanned 3 games that all took place during the same time while played from three different heroes’ points of view. The reason this was the last game was Sega was shifting development toward the Dreamcast, which left Camelot in the lurch as to the fate of the series. Sega agreed to release the first of the three parts but with an edited ending to make it more of a stand alone title. At which point Camelot left and formed a partnership with Nintendo to make the Golden Sun series which borrows heavily from Holy Ark and Shining in the Darkness in style
Sega released several other Shining titles without Camelot – mostly hack and slash titles on the Gameboy Advance and PS2 – but the sales were lackluster at best as they did not retain the charm from the originals. Without Camelot’s talent, Sega abandoned the series in the U.S. There will not be another true Shining title unless Camelot and Sega can mend fences. The rift still seems too deep from Sega burning bridges with Shining Force 3 being abandoned early on. They would need to work together to bring gamers in the U.S. the series entries we are missing, or new titles like the rumor attached to the newest trademark for Holy Ark as a sequel.
It seems unlikely at this point, though. Fans like myself will feel bittersweet about upcoming Shining news, seeing as the odds of localization seem slim. If a title is localized, Camelot would most likely not be involved, meaning that some of the charm will already be missing. Most likely the titles will remain in Japan only, and there will always be a void in the hearts of existing Shining fans. Gamers who have not yet had the pleasure of playing the classics will never know the awesomeness they are missing from Camelot and Sega working together.
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